With original foe Errol Spence Jr. out of commission due to a torn retina (details here), the legendary Manny Pacquiao will instead make his return to the ring against Welterweight boogeyman Yordenis Ugas TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 21, 2021) atop a four-fight PBC on FOX pay-per-view (PPV).
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also see long-time veterans Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero duke it out, unbeaten Featherweight prospect Mark Magsayo square off with lethal puncher Julio Ceja, and Carlos Castro meet the resurgent Oscar Escandon.
It’s the main event that’s meant to justify the $74.99 PPV asking price (watch it here), so let’s have a look at it:
Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao
Record: 62-7-2, 39 KO
Last Five Fights: Keith Thurman (SD), Adrien Broner (UD), Lucas Matthysse (TKO-7), Jeff Horn (UD Loss), Jessie Vargas (UD)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Tim Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez (2x), Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera (2x), Erik Morales (2x), Lehlo Ledwaba
Record: 26-4, 12 KO
Last Five Fights: Abel Ramos (SD), Mike Dallas Jr. (RTD-7), Omar Figueroa Jr. (UD), Shawn Porter (SD Loss), Cesar Miguel Barrionuevo (UD)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Ray Robinson, Thomas Dulorme, Jamal James
For those of you unfamiliar with Ugas, here’s a quick rundown: The Cuban claimed Olympic bronze in 2008 and hit the professional circuit two years later, only for a series of upset losses to seemingly end his run before it started. After a two-year layoff, however, he returned a changed man and began running roughshod over some very capable Welterweights. He’s now in the midst of an 11-1 run, the only loss a highly questionable one to division standout Shawn Porter.
There’s also a bit of bad blood here.
When Pacquiao defeated Keith Thurman in 2019, he claimed the WBA’s “super” Welterweight title. However, because the WBA are cretins, there are multiple different versions of its title, and Ugas won the “world” belt last year by beating Abel Ramos. As Pacquiao hadn’t defended his title in two years, however, the organization elected to name him “champion in recess” and upgrade Ugas to “super” champion, much to Pacquiao’s annoyance.
Sanctioning bodies are stupid.
In any event, Ugas boasts a nasty jab, an impressive body attack, and an admirable mean streak. That might not have been sufficient to overcome Pacquiao’s previous iterations, but I do think it’s too much for a 42-year-old “Pac-Man,” who’s coming off the longest layoff of his career. While we saw some of the fantastic movement and dizzying combinations that are Pacquiao’s trademark in the Thurman fight, he couldn’t keep the pedal to the metal all night, which allowed Thurman to back him up at times and find particular success to the body.
That’s not going to cut it against Ugas. Though he may not be a huge puncher, he’s a sharper technician than Thurman and has the size and craft necessary to hold his own in the close-quarters exchanges Pacquiao loves so much.
All that said, this is still far more winnable for Pacquiao than the faster, younger and more destructive Spence would have been, and there are definitely a few things going his way. Chief among them is the short notice; Pacquiao may have had to switch preparations from the Southpaw Spence to the Orthodox Ugas, but Ugas went from facing a mid-level slugger in Fabian Maidana to one of the most unique offensive machines in the sport. If Ugas isn’t ready for this, even an aging Pacquiao can potentially swamp him with early assaults and take over from there.
Considering Ugas’ considerable experience, though, I trust him to execute despite the lack of prep time. In the end, he keeps Pacquiao at the end of his jab, roughhouses on the inside, and capitalizes on Pacquiao’s inconsistent work rate to take a clear decision.
Prediction: Ugas via unanimous decision